EOC recommends to the Government the establishment of a specialized Equal Opportunities Tribunal
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has made recommendations to the Government to establish an Equal Opportunities Tribunal (EOT), as a new judicial organ in its own right with its own statutory framework where District Court judges are ex-officio presiding officers.
Mr. Raymond TANG, Chairperson of the EOC, said, “The purpose of establishing an EOT is to enhance access to the adjudication system in discrimination cases and to make it more user-friendly and less formal.”
Legal proceedings in discrimination cases are currently dealt with in the District Court under the same litigation rules as for other civil cases. The rules and procedures for commencement and conduct of cases are formal and technical in nature. To commence and conduct discrimination cases with legal representation, claimants may incur substantial legal costs. This may impede access to the adjudication system.
“The EOC commenced reviewing the procedures and mechanisms for adjudication of claims under anti-discrimination legislation in 2004. In the course of the review, the EOC took account of its operating experience, relevant overseas practice and the practice of other specialized tribunals in Hong Kong,” Mr. TANG continued.
In overseas jurisdictions with similar anti-discrimination legislation, a common feature is the use of procedures for commencement and conduct of these cases separate from ordinary civil litigation procedures.
In Hong Kong, there are also specialist tribunals for certain types of cases where a more user-friendly adjudication system is more suitable than the ordinary civil litigation system. In these specialist tribunals, claimants do not need to follow technical rules on pleadings and other formalities. Their procedures are designed to facilitate lay persons to conduct their own proceedings, if they so wish.
It is recommended that the rules and procedures of the proposed EOT should deal exclusively with discrimination cases brought under anti-discrimination legislation, and its rules should contain the following main features :-
Commencement of proceedings by use of specified forms so that claimants do not need to follow technical rules for initiating proceedings and for pleadings as for other civil cases;
Wide general case management powers to manage proceedings;
Discretion to refer cases to the EOC for investigation and conciliation (where a claimant has commenced proceedings in the EOT directly) ;
Power to call for and have proper regard to a summary of the complaint from the EOC (where a complaint has initially been lodged with the EOC) ;
Parties are encouraged to resolve disputes through conciliation or mediation. Unreasonable refusal to resolve disputes through conciliation or mediation should be made a permissible factor for adverse costs orders;
|(vi)||Legal representation should be permissible.|
Apart from the rules and procedures, it is also recommended that suitable information guides should be provided for the public to facilitate lay persons to conduct proceedings without professional representation.
For media enquiries, please contact Ms. Mariana LAW at 2106-2226.
Equal Opportunities Commission
8 April 2009